GOSHEN — Standing nearly as tall as the bass he plays as part of the Goshen Middle School eighth-grade orchestra, Denver Edwards stands out on stage. And not just for his height. Edwards’ passion is evident.
That passion is why he was invited to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy, an arts boarding school serving students in ninth through 12th grades, located in Interlochen, Michigan. It is a small community, located just southwest of Traverse City.
“The reason I wanted to go there, was when I came back from Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Michigan, I got back to school and like the music wasn’t as challenging and I missed having that challenge,” Edwards said. “And so when I came back from this summer I knew Interlochen, I — actually I decided, ‘Hey, what are some random music schools that are like kind of near me?’”
“I looked into it and watched a bunch of videos and their music program was really intensive and was exactly what I wanted with a lot of competition and all their academics, like also went in with whatever your major was. They knew the balance you had to have.”
Without telling his mom, Angela Edwards, he gathered all of the information about the school and then, thanks to some skills he learned in New Tech, made a PowerPoint presentation to present to her about why he should be allowed to attend.
“I came home one day,” Angela said, “and he had prepared a PowerPoint presentation of what Interlochen was, why I should let him go, what he would get out of it, what it costs — and one of his points was why I should let him go is that it would prepare me for when he goes to college. I was like, ‘By taking you away four years early?’”
Angela admits she’s torn about sending him to boarding school. But after visiting Interlochen, she realized he would thrive in that environment. “Everything that they do is integrated with their academics and their music — it’s all integrated together,” she said. “Then it will be just me and my dog at home. It’ll be a big adjustment for me. It’s a four-hour drive.”
And although it will be hard, Angela wants her son to pursue the passion he’s had since laying his eyes on the bass.
Edwards started playing the cello as part of the fifth-grade orchestra. But when the orchestras came to Prairie View Elementary to demonstrate the different instruments, his life changed.
“I saw the bass, and as soon as I looked over at my mom and she was just like ‘face palm,’” Edwards said.
Angela interjected, “I knew what he wanted.”
“I wanted to play the biggest instrument,” he added. “It’s just been kind of my calling to play low instruments especially like after going to Blue Lake and seeing what could become of me if I go to Interlochen, like really push me to better my skills.”
When Edwards gets older, he said he would like to play bass professionally in big orchestras and to teach. “Music is my passion and I want to share it with people,” he said.
He is going overseas this summer to France, Germany and Luxembourg with Blue Lake International Youth Symphony.
“Music is like an international language,” he said. “It’s like there’s going to be language barriers when we go over there, but even though there will be those barriers we’ll still be able to be like united because of our music that we’re playing.”
And after his summer in Europe, Edwards hopes to return home and begin classes at Interlochen. There’s just one hitch, he needs about $8,000 to make his dream a reality.
There is a $62,000 tuition fee and Interlochen has given him $39,000 of that. Angela, who works at Prairie View Elementary, can make $1,500 monthly payments on the remainder. To do that, she would need help coming up with $8,000, be able to pay half the tuition, sign a document committing to the rest by April 10, and she needs to give the school a non-refundable down payment.
If Edwards succeeds, he would be the first Goshen Middle School student in at least 21 years to go to Interlochen, according to GMS New Tech guidance counselor Jan Desmarais-Morse.
She said that Edwards taking control of his learning is what New Tech teaching is about. He took the bull by the horns, she said.
Some people focus on the obstacles. “Not Denver,” she said. “He stepped right over that.”
And Denver already knows what his passion is, Desmarais-Morse pointed out. “It’s just delightful to be part of the process.”
If the Edwards family isn’t able to secure the funding, Edwards will continue on at Goshen and apply again next year.